NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)— A Venezuelan salsa dancer who legally married an American man in a same-sex ceremony last year has had his deportation placed on hold.
The decision comes one day after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a similar case put on hold.
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Henry Velandia says he should be allowed to remain in the U.S. as the spouse of a U.S. citizen Josh Vandiver. Velandia faces deportation to his native Venezuela.
Judge Alberto Riefkohl granted an adjournment of the case Friday in a Newark immigration court.
The love and affection between Velandia and Vandiver is quite clear.
“Meeting Josh, it was like the turning point of my life where in 2006 when I met him — Nov. 12 exactly, I remember — I fell in love with this guy,” Velandia told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
Velandia’s visitor visa expired and he was unable to obtain a green card or permanent resident status through an employer. Because the federal government doesn’t recognize the couple’s marriage, Vandiver cannot sponsor Velandia as a heterosexual person could sponsor a spouse.
“The non-gay couple gets married, a man and a woman, in very short order their spouse is well on their way to becoming a permanent resident and a citizen,” Vandiver said. “In our case, just because we’re gay my husband is being deported.”
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The couple says families are being ripped apart and they’re urging the Department of Homeland security to change their policies.
“We want to fight until the end. This is where Josh is from, he belongs here, and I belong with him,” Velandia said.
Separately on Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder set aside a Board of Immigration Appeals ruling allowing the deportation to Ireland of Paul Wilson Dorman, a gay man illegally in the U.S. who celebrated a civil union in New Jersey with his male partner.
The board had based its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But earlier this year, Holder said the government would no longer defend the marriage law in court, although the administration has continued to enforce it.
The government had briefly allowed applications for immigrant benefits for same-sex couples, then reversed course days later after a review of the laws.
Attorney Lavi Soloway, who is representing Velandia and is the founder of an advocacy group Immigration Equality, said he planned to ask the immigration judge for an adjournment Friday, in light of Holder’s decision on the other case.
“The attorney general’s decision yesterday is an extraordinary development, it’s historic, it’s the first time any attorney general has intervened in an immigration case involving a bi-national same-sex couple,” Soloway said. “The specific instruction he’s given indicates he’s interested in finding a possible solution so gay and lesbian partners of American citizens can be afforded the same rights.”
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